Couple raise child as 'gender neutral' to avoid stereotyping
A couple who raised their child as "gender neutral" for five years so the infant's "real personality" could shine through have finally revealed he is a boy.Photo: SWNS
Beck Laxton, 46, and partner Kieran Cooper, 44, decided not to reveal baby Sasha's gender to the world so he would not be influenced by society's prejudices and preconceptions.
They referred to their child as "The Infant" and only allowed him to play with "gender-neutral toys" in their television-free home.
For the first five years of his life Sasha alternated between girls' and boys' outfits, leaving friends, playmates and relatives guessing.
But the couple have finally revealed his sex after it became harder to conceal when Sasha started primary school.
Yesterday Miss Laxton, a web editor, said that she thought gender stereotyping was "fundamentally stupid".
"I wanted to avoid all that stereotyping," she said.
"Stereotypes seem fundamentally stupid. Why would you want to slot people into boxes?
"It's like horoscopes: what could be stupider than thinking there are 12 types of personality that depend on when you were born? It's so idiotic.
"Gender affects what children wear and what they can play with, and that shapes the kind of person they become."
She admitted that their stance had led them to suffering some ostracisation and she had been branded a "loony" by other parents.
But she felt it was worth it.
"I discovered later that I'd been described as 'that loony woman who doesn't know whether her baby is a boy or a girl', she said.
"And I could never persuade anyone in the group to come around for coffee. They just thought I was mental.
"I don't think I'd do it if I thought it was going to make him unhappy, but at the moment he's not really bothered either way. We haven't had any difficult scenarios yet."
She said she early gender stereotyping was "harmful".
"My mother's very sporty and my dad was very emotional," she said.
"We'd watch The Wizard of Oz and always start crying, whereas my mum would think we were really soppy.
"So it's always seemed obvious to me that stereotypes didn't fit the people I knew."
The family, from in Sawston, Cambs., were so desperate not to prejudice Sasha's life with gender they didn't ask midwives his sex until 30 minutes after he was born.
Only a handful of immediate family members were told of the baby's gender.
Finally the secret got too hard to keep and Beck and Kieran were forced to reveal Sasha's sex when he started school.
Sasha wears a "ruched-sleeved" girl's shirt as part of his school uniform, and has been banned from sporting combat trousers.
The youngster is also encouraged to wear flowery tops at weekends.
Miss Laxton said her son would think nothing of being given flowers – a gift which would embarrass many men.
"I just want him to fulfil his potential, and I wouldn't push him in any direction. As long as he has good relationships and good friends, then nothing else matters does it?
Mr Cooper, a computer software designer, said his sone likes to play with Lego and dolls.
He said: "We wanted to challenge gender stereotypes and so if Sasha wants to dress up in girls' clothes then so be it. But we are not forcing it.
Dr Daragh McDermott, a psychology lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University, said the effect of raising a gender neutral child is not yet known.
He said: "It's hard to say whether being raised gender-neutral will have any immediate or long-term psychological consequences for a child, purely because to date there is little empirical research examining this topic.
"That being said, the family setting is only one source of gender-specific information and as children grow, their self-identity as male, female or gender-neutral will be influenced by school, socialisation with other children and adults, as well as mass media.
"As a child grows they develop their own independent sense of self that will include their own individual gender identification."
Monday, 23 January 2012
Couple raise child as 'gender neutral' to avoid stereotyping - Telegraph